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... Illustration by Crystal Frasier ... Sci-Fried: Pucker Up Tuesday, November 17, 2009Cave raptors are sated; it's time to blog! ... Back when I was a little ankle-chewer in the distant 1980s, there weren't a lot of strong female role models to choose from. Most of the women on TV were simpering damsels in distress or so fashion- and boy-crazy that they triggered my normally resilient goblin gag reflex. Then in 1985, Mattel rolled out She-Ra and my youthful, violent fanaticism found someone...
Illustration by Crystal Frasier
Sci-Fried: Pucker Up
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Cave raptors are sated; it's time to blog!
Back when I was a little ankle-chewer in the distant 1980s, there weren't a lot of strong female role models to choose from. Most of the women on TV were simpering damsels in distress or so fashion- and boy-crazy that they triggered my normally resilient goblin gag reflex. Then in 1985, Mattel rolled out She-Ra and my youthful, violent fanaticism found someone to latch onto. She-Ra still had a lot of fashion doll in her, but she had something that no other female character did: a friggin' sword! For a long while, She-Ra was my favorite show, and I still remember it fondly today, even if the series hasn't aged well.
And why in Lamashtu's name have I forced us all down this horrifying stagger through memory lane? So that it will really drive home the point when I say quite plainly: Jirel of Joiry would kick She-Ra's alabaster ass!
For this week's installment of Sci-Fried, I picked up a copy of the Planet Stories collection Black God's Kiss. Last time around, I enjoyed Kuttner's work on The Dark World, and in my research (and by research, I mean dumpster-diving in Wikipedia) I discovered that he co-wrote most of his later novels with his wife, C. L. Moore.
Illustration by Arnold Tsang
So, major spoilers: C. L. Moore is a woman!
Armed with the knowledge that women can write science fiction, I eagerly dove into Black God's Kiss. And I was not disappointed. The intrusion of pesky adventurers kept me from finishing all six thrilling tales, as their larcenous halfling made off with my copy in the fracas. But the first three short stories were more than enough to whet my appetite and have me picking up a replacement copy today at work.
Black God's Kiss collects Moore's six Jirel of Joiry stories into one convenient volume. The original badass, no-excuses warrior woman before Xena and Lara Croft made it cool, Jirel is the military commander (and later queen) of Joiry, a medieval French territory. She's the best swordswoman in the kingdom, the toughest brawler, and supremely focused on whatever her goal might be. She's every bit as violent as I am, but with all the self-confidence and human emotions I usually use my violence to compensate for.
But like an octopus without its legs, a cool character isn't much to look at if the writing is sub par. And Moore is par excellence. Moore's writing is like an expensive meal. You get the nourishing plot, of course, but what you really love is just putting the prose in your mouth and chewing, savoring those flavorful descriptions and the rich balance of analogies. It's like eating a pickle made out of tasty Halfling toes.
"But the darkness that bandaged her eyes was changed too, indescribably. It was no longer darkness, but void; not an absence of light, but simple nothingness."
That is art. It combines such simple ingredients to create an elegant whole and makes me understand a concept I could never personally experience without visiting family. It makes me want to backtrack, taste it again, and learn how to cook it myself. Jirel's travels beyond reality are so lip-smackingly vivid that they pull me in, despite the book's glaring minority of cephalopods.
Black God's Kiss is an exciting and fun collection of adventures with the kind of action-adventure hero that anyone can enjoy, and any gamer girl and empathize with. This isn't just a book I enjoy reading, this is a book I'm going to enjoy reading to my daughter some day...
Provided I can override my natural instincts to eat my young.
Kicking Down The Door Wednesday, July 25, 2007That more people don't know the name C. L. Moore is one of the biggest tragedies in science fiction and fantasy. This October, Planet Stories plans to do everything we can to change that. ... First published in Weird Tales in 1934, Catherine Lucille Moore was writing science fiction and fantasy in a time where female authors were rare across the board, and practically unheard of in genre fiction. Abbreviating her name to hide her gender, Moore...
Kicking Down The Door
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
That more people don't know the name C. L. Moore is one of the biggest tragedies in science fiction and fantasy. This October, Planet Stories plans to do everything we can to change that.
First published in Weird Tales in 1934, Catherine Lucille Moore was writing science fiction and fantasy in a time where female authors were rare across the board, and practically unheard of in genre fiction. Abbreviating her name to hide her gender, Moore quickly rose through the ranks of the pulp authors, publishing alongside contemporaries like Robert E. Howard and even earning praise from H. P. Lovecraft himself. (So successful was her disguise, in fact, that she first met fellow SF author Henry Kuttner when he wrote her a fan letter believing her to be a man. The two were married a few years later, and went on to collaborate extensively.) What's more, she continued to excel once her gender became known, and in doing so paved the way for countless female fantasy and science fiction authors to come.
In Black God's Kiss, we've collected all six Jirel of Joiry stories, in which Moore introduced the world to the first-ever female fantasy protagonist. Where the pulp stories around her were filled with distressed damsels and helpless shrinking violets in need of rescue, Jirel burst onto the scene larger than life. Sword swinging, teeth ready to tear out the throats of her enemies, Jirel ruled her domain in Moore's medieval France analogue with an iron fist, holding it against all comers through the strength of her blade. Moore's moody, illustrative prose was equally anomalous for the time period, and from the hellish landscape beneath Jirel's castle to the fields of alien ghouls in "Quest of the Starstone," Moore's boundless imagination continues to inspire fans and authors to this day.
As noted SF author Suzy McKee Charnas points out in the introduction, C. L. Moore and Jirel of Joiry didn't just open the door for women in science fiction and fantasy—they kicked it down. Male or female, Black God's Kiss is a must-have for any serious fantasy enthusiast.
Come read the stories that started a revolution. You won't be disappointed.